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Continuous Flow Technology IV speaker interview: Dr Alcázar and Professor Wirth

industrial equipment

30 Apr 2019

Dr Jesús Alcázar and Professor Thomas Wirth are both speakers at the upcoming Continuous Flow Technology IV event on 14-16 May 2019, organised by SCI's Fine Chemicals Group, RSC's Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector and RSC's Speciality Chemicals Sector.
Rebecca Aris

SCI has supported leaders in continuous flow technology since launching its first ground-breaking continuous flow technology event in 2010. This is now a regular event where prominent speakers from across industry and academia come together. 

The latest event reflects on the advances made with continuous flow technology over recent years and the impact it is making right across the chemicals industry spanning discovery applications, process development advances and value for commercial manufacture of fine and speciality chemicals. To reflect the mix of interests and applications across the chemistry community, the symposium is structured as two back-to-back events with options for attending two consecutive days or all three.

The meeting is directed at individuals with a curiosity into what continuous flow is and how it may benefit them or their organisations, and those already involved in the area. The presentations cover aspects from microfluidics discovery to production scale manufacture, highlighting the latest developments, novel methods, engineering and their application.

jesus alcazar

As a Principal Chemist at Janssen Research & Development at the research centre in Toledo, Spain, Dr Jesús Alcázar is involved in the implementation of novel technologies in drug discovery. At the Continuous Flow Technology IV event, Dr Jesús Alcázar is speaking on flow photochemistry as a tool for drug discovery.

Having worked on a wide variety of technologies in drug discovering, including flow, which technology that you have worked on would you say has been the most disruptive in the chemical industry?

From all the technologies I have worked with in the lab, flow technology has been the most disruptive. Working in flow requires a different mindset, and years of experience before adopting it as a tool.

What is the most rewarding part of your work in science?

The most rewarding part is discovering new ways of doing things and seeing how this has an impact on what you are you able to do. It’s also satisfying seeing how this influences what you are capable of doing, for instance, building new Csp3-Csp2 bonds and having access to new chemical space.

Continuous flow technology has already made a big impact on the chemical industry, what do you think the future of the area looks like?

The future of this area looks promising as it can add to the chemist’s toolset new methodologies rarely used before, such as photochemistry and electrochemistry. This may allow to access redox organochemistry without the need to add chemical oxidants or reductants that are usually hazardous materials with an ecological impact.

What areas of chemistry could benefit from using flow technology to improve the industrial process?

In my experience, drug discovery is still missing the opportunity to use flow chemistry. Once medicinal chemists see the potential of what they are able to do in flow, they will see new possibilities that they did not previously consider. For example, chemists are now considering using new enriched Csp3 motifs that improve some PK parameters such as solubility and permeability.

Why did you decide to go into flow chemistry?

The decision of going into flow chemistry was driven by the need to scale up microwave reactions and the opportunities to handle reagents and intermediates that were disregarded for their instability.

thomas wirth

As Professor of Organic Chemistry at Cardiff University, Professor Thomas Wirth’s main research interests concern stereoselective electrophilic reactions, oxidative transformations with hypervalent iodine reagents including mechanistic investigations and organics synthesis performed in microreactors. He will address the audience on the topic of electrification of synthesis and advances in flow chemistry.

Continuous flow technology has already made a big impact on the chemical industry, what do you think the future of the area looks like?

Industry will further take advantage of flow technologies, which include rapid and automated reaction optimisation as well as devising new synthesis routes due to the accessibility of hazardous or unstable intermediates.

What areas of the chemistry could benefit from using flow technology?

No area is missing out on flow chemistry, but it is more difficult to implement in some areas - e.g. the reaction using solid compounds.

Why did you decide to go into flow chemistry?

Sixteen years ago, it was an almost unchartered area for organic synthesis and lots of opportunities seemed to be there. The prospect of safely making and using hazardous intermediates in synthesis was (and still is) highly promising and opened up new synthetic routes. The relatively facile use of extreme reaction conditions with high pressures and high temperatures is another great advantage of flow chemistry. The combination of flow reactions with inline analytic tools does not only allow fast analysis, it also enables automated feedback and rapid optimisation of reaction conditions.

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